Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

PhD Student Profiles

César Iván Alvarez-Ibarra

César received a bachelor’s degree on International Studies from the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) in 2016 and an MA in Latin American Studies from UT Austin in 2020. Both his college and MA degrees have focused on LGBT+ popular resistances to the LGBT+ mainstream hegemony. From 2015 to 2016, César was able to work with different autonomous organizations such as Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos en Nuevo León (FUNDENL). From 2016 to 2018 César worked as a high school teacher for the social sciences department at UDEM Unidad Fundadores High School. 

César is interested in continuing to expand on dissident LGBT+ popular resistances toward the construction of hegemonic hygienic LGBT+ citizenships by the State and allied institutions, specifically on the performative level of non-respectable trans, travesti and maricon resistance.

Research Interests: Performance studies; maricon resistance; travesti dissidence; Nicaragua; Cuba; homonationalism; filth; hygiene; hegemony; cuir anarcho-communism

Ana Carolina Assumpção

I am a journalist born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I received a bachelor’s in Social Communication in Rio de Janeiro and an MA in Latin American Studies from UT Austin in 2021. I’ve always been connected with social movements. Before moving to Austin in 2019, I was the curator and producer of a project that transformed a public-school patio into a graffiti art gallery. As the mother of young of a girl, I seek social justice changes and work to reduce racial and gender inequalities. My masters’ research focused on community collectives and Black women's organizations in Rio’s favelas and how they resist police brutality and state anti-blackness policies. I will continue my research, focusing on Black women as political subjects and their favelas organizations.

Research Interests: Territory; Black women; necropolitics; resistance politics; Rio de Janeiro; social movements

Denise Braz

Denise is from Minas Gerais, Brazil. She is a Black feminist, progressive, comunista, singer, and activist for human rights and nature. She completed her bachelor’s degree in literature in Brazil, where she was also a teacher. She lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for seven years, where she pursued a master’s in social anthropology in the Department of Philosophy and Literature at the University of the Buenos Aires. Her thesis was titled "The Black Social Movement of the City of Buenos Aires: Practices and Claims.” In Buenos Aires, Denise investigated Black history from the stories and perspectives of the Black people themselves, while also considering her own experience in the double role of researcher and activist. She began her doctoral studies at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, in August 2020. Her work will focus on the struggles of Black mothers in defense of their lives and the lives of their families. 

Research Interests: Race; gender; intersectionality; decolonialism; Black social movements; Black feminism

Mary Elizabeth Cassio

Mary Elizabeth Cassio received a bachelor's degree in Hispanic Studies from Pacific Lutheran University and a master's degree in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies from University of Wisconsin–Madison. During her time at the University of Wisconsin, she studied the Ecuadorian Kichwa language. She translated and interpreted four Kichwa poems for her master's thesis, "Llakichina and the Decolonial Subject in Four Kichwa Poems," and used a decolonial and post-structural approach to examine an Ecuadorian Kichwa aesthetic expression in these poems. She intends to continue working with Kichwa poetic literatures, and is interested in contemporary Kichwa poetry that explores binary identities.

Research Interests: Decoloniality; Ecuadorian Kichwa language and literatures; bilingual poetry; indigeneity and indigenous poetics

Jorge Choy Gómez

Jorge Choy Gómez is from a small town in southern Mexico called Tapachula. He completed a bachelor’s degree in social psychology and a master’s degree in social anthropology, both focused on Central American immigration in southern Mexico. He plans to continue with the subject of human mobility from Central America to Mexico and the United States, now focusing on the protection system for children and adolescents, a system that protects by arresting and imprisoning.

Research Interests: Human mobility from Central America to Mexico and the US; protection versus detention of children and adolescent migrants

Mariana Escalona

Mariana Escalona was born and raised in La Habana, Cuba. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the Universidad de La Habana and a master’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Human Resources in the University Ana G Méndez, Puerto Rico. She is mainly interested in gender, Black and transatlantic studies.

Research Interests: Gender, Black and transatlantic studies; History of empire, law and labor division in the Caribbean, colonialism and neocolonial practices

Gustavo Fuchs Alvarado

Gustavo received a bachelor's degree in International Studies from the National University of Costa Rica (UNA), an MA in Media Studies from FLACSO Ecuador, and an LLM in International Law from the University of Nottingham. His studies have focused on media and human rights, including topics such as media ownership, agenda-setting, and hate speech. Since 2018 he has been investigating the intersection between media, religion, and politics, focusing on the evangelical movement in Costa Rica and its rise into mainstream politics after that year’s presidential elections. 

Research Interests: Media studies; evangelical movement; religious politics; far right; Central America agenda-setting; framing; democracy; human rights

Alexandra Lamiña

Alexandra Lamiña is an international PhD student from Ecuador. She is a geographer and holds an engineering degree in environmental studies. She completed her master’s degree in the Latin American Studies and Community and Regional Planning programs at The University of Texas at Austin. Alexandra has been working since 2010 with the Kichwa from the Ecuadorian Amazon to support processes of territoriality and political representation. Her main areas of involvement include social mobilization, community participation, participatory mapping, and ethnography. Currently, she investigates indigenous vis-à-vis modernist planning in the Ecuadorian Amazon, focusing on the challenge posed to modern planning by indigenous ontologies and the opportunities for forging new forms of planning that incorporates indigenous epistemologies.

Research Interests: Social mobilization; community participation; participatory mapping; ethnography; indigenous peoples and planning in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Paula Lezama

Paula Lezama, holds a BA in Economics from her home country, Colombia, and an MA degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of South Florida, where she worked for over 10 years and is part of their Afro-descendants Working Group. She is interested in a wide range of topics related to racial disparities in Colombia and Brazil, including the multidimensional poverty measures for Afro-descendants and the impact of armed conflict and violence.

Ana María López H.

Ana María López H. holds a master’s degree in European, Latin American, and Comparative Literatures and Cultures from the University of Cambridge, and a bachelor’s degree in Literary Studies from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, where she focused on creative writing and literary research. Aside from her PhD, she is currently pursuing a virtual graduate qualification in Epistemologies of the South from Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO). From a creative perspective, she is constantly working on poetry and narrative writing. 

Ana María’s current research focuses on diverse forms of narratives of memory produced by women in the frame of the Colombian armed conflict. She wants to approach narrative from a decolonial feminist perspective, exploring the intersections of race, gender, and class in the production of discourses and the reconstruction of memory. 

Research Interests: Decolonial studies; epistemologies of the South; gender studies; feminisms of the South; feminist theory; intersectionality; narratives; memory; violence; conflict and “post-conflict” Colombia

Ruth Matamoros Mercado

Ruth Matamoros Mercado is the mother of two awesome kids, Noah and Ariadna. She belongs to the Miskitu indigenous group from the northern autonomous region of Nicaragua. Ruth completed a master’s degree in Latin American Studies at LLILAS, majoring in anthropology, almost 10 years ago. She did research in Honduras and Nicaragua to analyze the newly emergent transnational identity among Miskitu from the two countries, which is especially significant in a moment in which Miskitu from both countries are immersed in struggles to achieve recognition of their rights over land and natural resources. She is currently trying to understand the cultural vision of indigenous peoples regarding land and natural resources, and the ways that colonization and subordination have had an influence in shaping those visions.

Research Interests: Cultural vision of indigenous peoples regarding land and natural resources; influence of colonization and subordination in shaping those visions 

Pablo Millalen Lepin

Pablo Millalen Lepin is from the Mapuche community of Maniuco, Commune of Galvarino, southern Chile. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a master’s in Management and Public Policy from the University of Santiago de Chile. He is interested in the study of state programs and policies regarding Indigenous peoples in Chile and Latin America, with a particular focus on the relationships between the Chilean State and the Mapuche people. He was a fellow at the Human Rights Program for Indigenous Peoples of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the University of Deusto (2016); he also studied at the International People's College in Denmark. He is a member of the indigenous research collective Comunidad de Historia Mapuche, which is based in Temuco, Chile.

Research Interests: State policies and Indigenous peoples; the Chilean state and the Mapuche people; Indigenous politics; neoliberalism, multiculturalism, and public policies; indigenous rights, human rights, and international relations 

Imelda Muñoz

Imelda Muñoz is born and raised in Salinas, California, and is the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. She holds an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University and received a BA in Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies from California State University Monterey Bay. Her doctoral research focuses on the life experiences of queer and transgender Mexican immigrants who work in the agricultural industry in central California. Using an ethnographic approach, Muñoz examines the social lives of queer and transgender Mexican immigrants within multiple contexts: (1) the agricultural industry, both in the fields and produce-packing factories; (2) the rural communities of the Salinas Valley; and, (3) their family and kinship ties.

Research interests: Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies; Women and Gender Studies; Sexuality Studies; Ethnic Studies; Migration Studies; Third World Feminism

Nathalia Hernández Ochoa

Nathalia Hernández Ochoa is a first-generation university student. She grew up in El Salvador and moved to the U.S. when she was 17 years old. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a master’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She has worked on Central American women’s narratives related to civil war conflicts, sexual violence, and feminicides. Her MA thesis focused on the oral histories of rural women who participated in the guerrilla movement during the Salvadoran Revolution.

She is currently a doctoral candidate completing her dissertation project, titled “Curanderas: Maya Women Resisting Violence through Theater and Performance.” Her work focuses on how Maya and Mestiza women are using theater and performance as a way to denounce violence in Guatemala. As a feminist scholar, Hernández Ochoa focuses on intersectional analysis of violence against women in Central America, Maya Kaqchikel women’s activism through theater and performance, and decolonial feminist theory and praxis from the perspective of Indigenous women in the Americas. To follow some of her work, view her personal blog: https://curanderasguatemala.home.blog/

Research interests: Theater and Performance; Decolonial Feminisms; Collective Trauma and Healing; Violence against Women; Indigenous Studies in Guatemala; Poetry and Creative Writing; Critical Ethnography and Visual Anthropology

Katherin Patricia Tairo-Quispe

Katherin Tairo is a Quechua scholar and activist who was born and grew up in Sicuani, a small town of Cusco in the south of Peru. She holds a master's degree in Social Management from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, a master's degree in Social Business Management for Social Innovation and Local Development from Universidad EAFIT Colombia, and a bachelor's degree in Social Communication from Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco.

Aside from her PhD, she is currently running socially engaged projects in the Peruvian Andes (Cusco and Apurimac regions) with Quechua communities and the support of local governments, and the United States Embassy in Peru. Her experience (which she calls “adventures”) as a researcher and consultant for nonprofit organizations motivate her to explore “development” from an indigenous approach. Particularly, the role of indigenous policies in “developmental” programs and projects in Peru and Latin America, with emphasis on those that are being implemented in indigenous communities.

Research Interests: Indigenous studies; decolonizing methodologies; indigenous politics; development from an indigenous approach; aesthetics; Quechua media activism; gender studies

Juan Tiney Chirix

Juan is a Tzutujil-Kakchiquel Mayan non-binary student who grew up in a country called Guatemala. Before starting their doctoral studies at UT Austin, Juan received a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Havana and dual master’s degree in Latin American Studies / Community and Regional Planning, which expanded their knowledge of the officially recognized Indigenous literature in academia, both in Latin America and in the United States. The struggle for recognition and respect for Indigenous nations is a family legacy. Juan has also been involved in reclaiming academic spaces for the recognition of Indigenous knowledge, especially the indigenous economy and politics. Juan’s master’s thesis, titled “El cooperativismo como espacio político y económico para el empoderamiento de las mujeres negras e indígenas: diálogos intersectoriales sur-sur (La República Dominicana y Guatemala),” centered on the recognition of the knowledge of women of color, especially Indigenous and Black women, in microprojects of permaculture; however, Juan analyzes research methodologies and positionality as a non-binary Indigenous researcher.

Research Interests: Indigenous studies in Guatemala; critical race and gender theory; political economics; cooperativism and neoliberalism; decolonization of planning; participatory methodology

Fátima Del Rocío Valdivia Ramírez

Fátima Valdivia is a Mexican lawyer (University of Guanajuato), and a social anthropologist (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, CIESAS), specializing in Indigenous rights. Her doctoral project, “Disputed Sovereignties: Rarámuri Self-Determination, State Sovereignty, and Drug Trafficking in the Tarahumara Region, Northern Mexico,” analyzes how drug traffickers in the Tarahumara region exercise a kind of sovereignty that enacts gender, racialization, and colonialism. Her argument is that drug traffickers’ claims to sovereignty align with the ideology of mestizaje, which is supported more by their invocation of coloniality rather than their ability to mimic the state, as many observers suggest. A colonial power structures the relationship between drug traffickers and indigenous Rarámuri people.

Olimpia Montserrat Valdivia Ramírez

Born in León, Guanajuato, Mexico, Montserrat holds a BA in Social Anthropology, and a MA in Asian and African Studies from El Colegio de México. Her broad areas of study are youth and violence, migration, and refugees. Currently, she is developing a transnational and qualitative dissertation research project regarding the experiences of Central American adolescents who have backgrounds as gang members (like Mara Salvatrucha, MS 13, and 18th Street) as they leave their home countries and traverse the increasingly arcane asylum process through Mexico. The goal of this project is to analyze how those minors experience structural violence in their home countries, how their gang affiliation and an environment of generalized violence negatively affect their human rights and allow them to migrate in search of protection. 

As a Brumley Next Generation Graduate Fellow at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law for academic year 2019–20, she will work with Dr. Jacob Dizard of the Strauss Center's Central America/Mexico Policy Initiative.

Research Interests: Refugees; irregular migration and its risks; international organizations; Mexico–Guatemala border


  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

    University of Texas at Austin
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